The United States Soccer Federation has not issued a ruling on the validity of the contracts that the USL tried to nullify last Friday, according to an agent with a stake in the situation. The agent also predicted that if six or seven teams leave the USL-1 under the Teams Owners Association banner, the rest of the USL-1 will follow.
This agent, who represents soccer players at all levels in the United States including the USL-1, requested anonymity but otherwise offered a candid and non-alarmist take on the dispute between the United Soccer Leagues and the dissident TOA.
On the issue of the validity of contracts, the agent said that US Soccer told him, "'There's been no ruling. Right now, the players are still under contract.'" (For more on the USL standard contracts, including a copy of same, see Brian Quarstad's post at Inside Minnesota Soccer.)
The agent said that he thinks the issue of the player contracts is a relatively minor one. By the time there's arbitration or mediation, he said, the dispute over the fate of the USL-1 as we now know it will be resolved.
"It's a moot issue," he said. "One way or another, the Carolina RailHawks will be playing next year."
The agent said that the clubs will argue, in his view "compellingly," that they had used standard contracts for the sake of efficiency, but that their contracts were significantly modified with bonus clauses and other addenda. They'll also argue that, as the ones paying the players, they are the owners of the contracts.
(As an editorial aside, it's worth pointing out that any reconciliation between the TOA and the USL would involve the latter recognizing the former's contracts, but if the TOA goes its own way, the USL has effectively renounced its interest in those contracts.)
The agent did suggest that one important effect of Holt's letter was to galvanize support for the TOA. "Tim Holt's letter went a little too far," he said. "I could sense sympathy shift toward the TOA."
He also suggested that for players at a club like Carolina, "If the contracts are ripped up, the players [at Carolina] aren't likely to get a better deal anywhere else."
He added, however, that there are players at other clubs that might like to take the opportunity to leave.
He also raised the possibility that, should the TOA proceed with a new league, there may be a couple of USL-2 teams poised to go along with them. Under that scenario, the USL would rebuild with the teams it has left and add a couple of stronger PDL teams, as well.